2014 was a landmark year in R&B music for two reasons – D’Angelo’s Black Messiah and FKA twigs’ LP1. Both albums are masterworks from artists who (no matter how popular D’Angelo was a decade ago) were not in the R&B spotlight – two relative outsiders stepped in, redefined what R&B could do and what it could sound like, and then sat back to see what would happen next. Black Messiah was a love letter to R&B past, LP1 to R&B future. D’Angelo brought the genre back to its roots; Twigs bent stylistic and lyrical conventions into something utterly unique. Anyone with their head in the R&B game had these two albums on repeat and hopefully saw that they would need to do something big in order to compete.
Miguel, it would seem, missed the memo.
Wildheart is the latest album from sexy man of sex Miguel Pimentel, and although he certainly has ambitions to be the genre-bending king of neo-R&B, Miguel delivers a fairly middle-of-the-road piece of work. Stylistically, Wildheart lands right between the manufactured club-R&B of The Weeknd and the deeply personal work of contemporary-R&B’s chosen one, Frank Ocean. Wildheart ultimately takes very few risks, and is marked by a steady decline into monotony.
That’s the bad news. The reality is that Wildheart is not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination. There are moments of sheer brilliance here and there, and altogether the album brings a very healthy approach to sexuality for R&B, a genre often marred by men wanting to have lots of sex and not caring all too much about whom they have sex with or what that person thinks about having sex. Unfortunately (and you’re free to disagree), in a post-Black Messiah, post-LP1, post-channel ORANGE world, releasing a “just okay” R&B album doesn’t cut it.
Wildheart starts strong – the opener, “a beautiful exit,” has a sultry and swaggering guitar riff pounding away beneath Miguel’s reverb-heavy vocals. The hook on this track is immensely catchy, and ends up being one of my favorite songs on the album. In fact, the first three songs are my three favorite songs on Wildheart. Track 2, “DEAL,” is one of the funkiest songs of 2015, with a bass-line that gives me chills and a chorus that brings me right back to Random Access Memories. The third track on this killer intro streak, “the valley,” is one of the most blush-inducingly sexual songs I’ve heard in a while, interspersed with a hallucinogenic synth line and layers upon layers of Miguel’s vocals.
As good as these three songs are, once Wildheart hits track 4, “coffe,” things start to go downhill. The production and lyrics become formulaic and practically boring. The times where Miguel takes a risk are usually not worth the trouble; for example, on “waves,” we have some killer production that’s utterly ruined by a forced, almost constipated, lo-fi vocal delivery.
Despite occasionally being formulaic, Wildheart still sounds pretty good. It’s remarkably slick and sexy – especially the sexy part. Wildheart is a sexy album by a sexy person; but, unlike some other sexy albums, it’s not only for sexy people. This is a sexy album for everyone, and Miguel wants you to know that he thinks you’re sexy, and he wants you to feel sexy. This is an album about self-love and loving others and is hugely sex-positive. Sure, parts of “the valley” can be a bit obscene (“I want to fuck like we’re filming in the valley,” in other words, “let’s bone like we’re making porn”), but I think it all comes from a place of love. Unfortunately, while the message is commendable and empowering, the music itself doesn’t have me coming back again and again past the three songs I mentioned above.
Despite a few good moments, Wildheart never quite pushes past mediocrity into something brilliant.6
Lyrics score 7
Production score 7
Composition score 5